Castles have always intrigued me, especially those in ruins. The more hidden and neglected the ruins, the better for my imagination to run wild. I blame it on my childhood bookworm days when running away to live in an art museum or an abandoned boxcar seemed entirely plausible. Every brick of a castle, no matter how small, holds a story to be told and transports me back to my girlhood enthusiasm for grand adventure.
I abandoned the city of Riga for a day to explore the Gauja River Valley, so critical to medieval trade and power, it’s like the Grand Central Station of castles. Over the course of one afternoon, I explored two 19th century manor houses grandiously called “castles” by their barons and three real rough and tumble castles.
The largest castle, Turaida, is an impressive red brick hulk dominating the Gauja River, although much of it is actually a 20th century reconstruction on top of the 13th century castle ruins. At times, the reconstructed sections are too neat, too angular, lacking the softened, crumbling edges of time’s anvil. Sigulda Castle impressed me with its delicate balance between today and yesterday – nave left open to the sky, but fresh, bright wood ramparts allowing access to tower doorways and corridors once orphaned high above the ground.
It was Krimulda Castle, a lonely 13th century sentinel buried in the cool of the woods, overgrown with brush and berries and slumbering to the hum of bees, that won my heart. Not a soul around as I sat on the remains of a wall, the hollow eyes of the castle begging for company.
To view my photo slide show, click on the link below.